I’ve had a headache for a week now, a throbbing, nasty pain in my left temple. The cause of this thumping migraine is, undoubtedly, the burgeoning Eurozone crisis – What if Greece defaults? Will Berlusconi quit? Is Sarkozy really wearing heels?! – and absolutely nothing to do with staying awake all last weekend, getting drunk, and generally acting like an idiot at White Night festival.
It’s awful though, the headache. Exercise makes it worse; daylight makes it worse; work makes it worse; socialising makes it worse – and it makes all these things even more intolerable than usual. For a while it seemed my only option was to become an obese, nocturnal unemployed loner… a lifestyle which, having started this blog, I was already well on my way to embracing.
“But perhaps it’s not so bad,” I thought, with characteristically breezy optimism. “Perhaps I will become a fat, 21st Century urban Gollum, squatting grotesquely in the squalor of a city sewer outlet for the rest of my lonely life, catching rats and freshly flushed fish with my pallid, sun-starved fingers. Perhaps, in a few hundred years, archaeologists will discover my hairless corpse mummified by chemical waste, the tail-end of my last meal still clamped firmly between fossilised teeth. And maybe – just maybe – a scholar, possibly the Tolkien-come-Goebbels of his time, will weave an epic uchronic fantasy around this discovery, posthumously crediting me with the virtue of stoical acceptance, holding my life up as a role-model for the sewage-munching slave class of his own brutal dystopia.”
Uplifting as it was to consider my own prospective future as a lifeless tool of oppression in a bleak totalitarian regime, it wasn’t curing my headache. Paracetamol was equally inadequate, and infinitely less entertaining. I sighed. It was time to see the doctor.
I hate going to the doctor’s. It’s not so much that I’m scared of being diagnosed with some horrific illness, or that I live in terror of the doctor asking me to ‘whip it out’. It’s more a matter of location. The surgery is located at the back of the top floor of a branch of Boots, part of a medical centre the entrance to which can be found amongst shelves dedicated to Huggies Pull-ups and SMA. This itself is not the problem; the problem is getting there.
To get to the surgery I first must creep through a mirror-maze of make-up counters guarded by perky, powdery-faced seventeen-year-olds, who seem to view my scruffy aspect with a smooth blend of social repugnance and bestial fear. The stench of perfume fills the air like nerve gas; eyes streaming, I have to hold my breath as I fight through the reeking fumes of Diesel, Gucci and Boss. Half obscured cardboard cutouts of skin-care models loom like enemy snipers through the fog of DIOR. Reaching the escalator I rise up, stair-lifted to the relative safety of the first floor with its self-service counters, photo-albums and crisps.
A necessity for disabled access, the waiting room door swings open at the touch of a large blue pad, a modification which fascinates the younger patients, thereby infuriating everyone else. But I don’t mind. I just bide my time, waiting for my name to be called, gazing thirstily at the glossy pictures of alcoholic drinks that are supposed to put me off it, thankful that the surgery door is not yet coin operated. In a matter of minutes I’m talking to the doctor. She prescribes me a drug called ‘Imigran’. It’s an anti-migraine tablet which, despite its name, has nothing whatsoever to do with elderly Iraqi women trying to rebuild their broken lives by crossing the borders of a strange land, striving desperately to evade the flaming, lidless eye of Theresa May. Well, that’s what it says on the packet. That and that I’m supposed to take one tablet every four to six hours until the pain stops. Thank you NHS.
The Boots Pharmacy is located away from the perfume counters, at the other end of the ground floor, safe behind a fortress of painkillers and decongestants, multivitamins and evening primrose oil. A long counter – flanked by innumerous bottles of novelty lube, and row-upon-spermacidal-row of the phallus’ rubber enemy – covers the wall, its northernmost end metamorphosing into squat barracks within which legions of prescription drugs patiently await the doctor’s orders. I march up to the barracks at the behest of a smiling girl who, with the pleasant efficiency essential in every good pharmacist, takes my money and gives me my drugs.
And so, drugs in pocket, smile on face, I take the escalator back to the first floor in order to make the most of the excellent Boots meal deal. I eye the available morsels judiciously before exercising my consumer choice: a low-fat houmous and falafel wrap, a probiotic banana smoothie, and a packet of Monster Munch. Sure beats rat!